Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hooligan's Wake Up: Infantino pushes 48 team World Cup again

Yesterday's Scores
UEFA Champions League
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 AS Monaco
(Yurchenko 30', Brandt 48')-(De Sanctis PK 82')

Tottenham 3-1 CSKA Moscow
(Alli 38', Kane 45+1', Akinfeev OG 78')-(Dzagoev 33')

The only game that mattered in Group E was the Tottenham-CSKA clash at Wembley. A win for either side would have sent them through to the Europa League. Despite going down midway through the second half, Spurs would hold off their Russian opposition thanks to Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and a goalkeeping howler from Igor Akinfeev to make sure they have something to do on a few Thursday nights in a few months.

Legia Warsaw 1-0 Sporting CP
(Guilherme 30')

Real Madrid 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
(Benzema 28', 53')-(Aubameyang 60', Reus 88')

Group F supremacy was on the line at the San Bernabeo. Real Madrid got a couple nice goals from Karim Benzema, but Dortmund had the last word. Two second half goals, including one from substitute Marco Reus, but the Germans on top of the group. They also set a record by scoring 21 total goals in the group stage. In fact, both sides should have scored more, to be honest, as there were several wasted chances on either end. Ronaldo, in particular, is guilty of this. He casually poked a sitter off the far post that would have made it 3-1 at the time. In the other match, Legia Warsaw's upset win sees them through to Europa over Sporting Lisbon.

Club Brugge 0-2 FC Copenhagen
(Mechele OG 8', Zanka 15')

FC Porto 5-0 Leicester City
(Silva 6', PK 64', Corona 26', Brahimi 44', Jota 77')

With the top spot in Group G sewn up, Leicester truly mailed in in against Porto, who certainly won't complain. They needed to win to keep Copenhagen down in Europa, 

Juventus 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb
(Higuain 52', Rugani 73')

Olympique Lyonnais 0-0 Sevilla

Olympique Lyonnais needed a two goal victory to surpass Sevilla for second place. Both sides made a habit of clanging shots off the woodwork, but nothing went in. As a result, Sevilla's three years running as Europa League champions comes to an end as they finally get through the group stage in the Champions League.

Champions League Tables

Here are the pots for Monday's Round of 16 draw:
Pot 1: Group Winners
Arsenal
Napoli
Barcelona
Atletico Madrid
AS Monaco
Borussia Dortmund
Leicester City
Juventus

Pot 2: Runners Up
Paris-Saint Germain
Benfica
Manchester City
Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen
Real Madrid
FC Porto
Sevilla

Teams cannot be drawn against a team they played in the group stage or a team from the same country in the Round of 16. The festivities go down at 6am on Monday morning and you can watch them on FS1 if, unlike me, you feel like waking up that early.

Headlines
After seeing his 32 team play in stage more or less rejected, Gianni Infantino is firing another salvo of 48 team World Cup action. This time he proposes 16 groups of three teams with the top two advancing to a Round of 32. This is a little better than his first idea, but I still don't like it. It really waters down the group stage, which is often the more exciting part of the tournament.

It's cool that he wants to get more countries involved in the World Cup and all, but I think he is overthinking his methods. Expand to a 48 team World Cup if you want, but you don't need to mess with the current group structure in order to do it. Have 12 groups of four, the top two move on, and the top eight first place teams get a bye into the round of 16. That would be simpler, not water down the group stage, and create an emphasis on winning at the end.

I personally favor a more conservative expansion to 40 teams with eight groups of five while keeping the top two advancing, but if Infantino wants to take the MLS method and expand at breakneck speed, I won't get in his way as long as he keeps things sensible.

Today's Matches
Europa League
Braga v. Shakhtar Donetsk- 11am
Konyaspor v. KAA Gent- 11am
FK Qarabag v. Fiorentina- 11am- ESPN3
PAOK Salonika v. Liberec- 11am
Osmanlispor v. FC Zurich- 11am- ESPN3
Villarreal v. Steaua Bucaresti- 11am- FS2
FC Zorya Luhansk v. Manchester United- 1pm- FS1
Feyenoord Rotterdam v. Fenerbah├že- 1pm
Apoel Nicosia v. Olympiakos- 1pm- ESPN3
Young Boys v. FC Astana- 1pm
Anderlecht v. St. Etienne- 1pm
Mainz v. FK Qabala- 1pm
AZ Alkmaar v. Zenit St. Petersburg- 1pm
Maccabi Tel-Aviv v. Dundalk- 1pm
FK Astra Giurgiu v. AS Roma- 1pm- FS2
Viktoria Plzen v. Austria Vienna- 1pm
Rapid Vienna v. Athletic Bilbao- 1pm
Sassuolo v. Racing Genk- 1pm
Panathinaikos v. Celta Vigo- 3:05pm
Standard Liege v. Ajax Amsterdam- 3:05pm
Red Bull Salzburg v. Schalke 04- 3:05pm- FS2
Nice v. Krasnodar- 3:05pm- ESPN3
Inter MIlan v. Sparta Prague- 3:05pm
Southampton v. Hapoel Be'er- 3:05pm- FS1

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